The BackScratcher Penguin of Antarctica

Excerpt from the book Animals Evolution Avoided. This book describes 40 animals that ought to exist but don’t, because I made them up.


The BackScratcher Penguin has a very broad end to its beak. Like the Adelie penguin, the beak is almost completely covered with feathers, which allows heat to be conserved. The Backscratcher’s beak is extremely hard, but the feathers cushion the hardness, making it an ideal instrument to provide back massages to other species of penguin.

Backscratcher Penguins aren’t particularly good fishers; they can catch fish, but not with the same efficiency as other penguins. However, it’s believed these penguins obtain fish by providing a service to other penguins with sore backs or who feel stiff having stood on the ice for many hours on end.

Backscratcher Penguins live in colonies slightly away from other penguins. If one of these other penguins requires a massage, it will walk over to the Backscratcher Penguin colony and beat its own beak against those of the Backscratcher’s looking for a beak that feels right. Once a suitable Backscratcher has been found, the penguins will again touch each other’s beaks, but this time they will be negotiating a price, maybe half a fish for a smaller penguin or a whole fish for a particularly large Emperor Penguin.

Backscratcher Penguins rub their beaks over the back of the penguin for between 10 and 15 minutes, moving up and down the back rather than across. Sore spots requiring more work are usually indicated to the backscratcher by a loud honking sound. Once the other penguin has had enough, it will turn around and regurgitate the necessary ‘payment’ for the service before returning to its own colony.

Published by Julian Worker

I was born in Leicester. I attended school in Yorkshire and University in Liverpool. I have been to 93 countries and territories including The Balkans and Armenia in 2015, France and Slovakia in 2016, and some of the Greek Islands in 2017. My sense of humour is distilled from The Goons, Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, and Midsomer Murders. I love being creative in my writing and I love writing about travelling. My next books are a travel book about Greece and a novel inspired by Brexit.

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